The bleak picture of West Papua in the recent news could make people unwilling to come, let alone invest in the region. Stories about the internally displaces communities and the wicked trial for some West Papuan activists might, even more, lead people to stay away from Indonesia’s easternmost area. But some youngsters have decided that those dark stories can never hold them back from visiting West Papua and from doing real actions to help the region keep advancing.
It has been a saddening situation for West Papuans, especially those of Nduga Regency, that some of them are still not able to come back to their places. Many still live in such a refugee center. Even worse, many kids cannot attend schools. As reported, some church community is helping them with their daily needs now. For some reason, other communities cannot help much due to many reasons like the remoteness of the area and the lack of political will of local government to give adequate aids.
In a faraway area, some activists who proclaimed themselves to be fighting for justice and prosperity of West Papua is undergoing an unwanted trial. As they brought a morning star flag during their demonstration last year, they are now being tried for treason. The Indonesian government has no conclusion whether the flag is a political or a cultural symbol. It was proposed as a cultural or kind of local pride one when President Abdurrahman Wahid or Gus Dur, a very respected national figure for West Papuans, was in power.
For that, no one can argue that the info above should give the public enough proposition that the region is currently, if not always, under an unconducive situation. Security and safety concerns also come with it. However, some, of not a large number, of people, especially youngsters, determine that the saddening situation is never to stop them from visiting West Papua. As also reported, it is not only youngsters from outside of West Papua, but those who are native West Papuans and live in West Papua seem to keep generating real actions in the hope of bettering the community in many aspects like education, social and economy.
No attention of many national media
VOA Indonesia that caught the moment of these dozens of young people from all over Indonesia are moving to Papua this week. The media emphasizes that they arrived in West Papua not to engage in conflict, or related to the recent outbreak, but to show clearly, how much they care and love the easternmost region in Indonesia. The rest of this piece, you are going to read through relies much on the inspiring story provided by VOA Indonesia which is recently published titled “Guru-Guru Muda yang Nekat Berbakti untuk Papua.”
As stated by VOA Indonesia, the arrival of young teachers in West Papua, last September 2019, did not gain the attention of many national media. What is seen in the press about West Papua indeed makes many people afraid to come. But there are hundreds of young people who are flocking to reach West Papua with They only have one desire: knowledge sharing. Even the prohibition of parents cannot stop them from believing in their guts. These teachers come with powerful weapons which are knowledge, pens and books.
Marlin Hartiwila Gat (24), and Tumbuh Sokhi Giawa (28) are among the 186 Remote Areas Enabling Teacher or Guru Penggerak Daerah Terpencil (GPDT) teachers that arrived in Mappi, Regency, Papua of the West Papua region to teach kids there. These teachers teach in West Papua for two years.
Born and growing in Nabire West Papua, Marlin explained that her parents initially did not agree with her decision to teach in West Papua. The parents argued that the recent situation in several cities in Papua which were worrying. However, Marlin’s persistence had turned down the prohibition.
A graduate of PGRI Adi Buana University in Surabaya, East Java, Marlin says that teaching at Mappi, West Papua, was like paying back what the West Papuan land and services gave her a wonderful childhood. A math teacher, she also dreams that West Papuan children can later be champions at reading, writing, arithmetic, and good at managing money. Marlin said, his childhood friends in Nabire were not good at managing money, which was always spent when there was without looking far ahead.
Tumbuh Sokhi Giawa, the young man from Nias Island, North Sumatra, decided to dedicate a considerable part of his life in West Papua because he knew the area needed support in the field of education. As reported by VOA Indonesia, Tumbuh said that he often saw and heard the news that West Papuan kids need the support of others, especially in the field of education.
A graduate of the Muslim Archipelago University of Al Washliyah, Medan, just like Marlin, Tumbuh is focusing on sharing knowledge with West Papuan children. His parents extremely objected at first, especially seeing the news about West Papua. But the negative news did not hold back Tumbuh’s spirit to keep going. He gave his parents an understanding of the valuable role he could take to help advance West Papua. Besides, he was ensuring that the region was relatively safe.
In another occasion, Rory Marwani a local west Papuan scholar, reassured that it is indeed true that some areas in West Papua are in big trouble, as mentioned by the mainstream media. But west Papua, in the end, is quite a large region that not all, if not the majority, of the area in a dreary situation. Many areas, regencies are in peace and it is safe for people to visit.
Valuable, inspiring experiences and stories
Recently, several foreign young people also came to West Papua to do excellent volunteer work. A local, respected movement called KitongBisa initiated the visiting program. KitongBisa is initiated by a nationally respected West Papuan youth named Billy Mambrasar. Youngsters from Germany, China and South Korea came and interacted with West Papuan kids and teenagers to share knowledge and skills.
Back to the brave stories of Marlin and Tumbuh, their program is not the first one as a matter of fact. This program was initiated by the Papua Task Force of Gadjah Mada University (UGM), the Center for Capacity Building and Cooperation (PPKK) of the Faculty of Social Sciences and several local West Papuan governments. Marlin’s and Tumbuh’s program was undertaken in collaboration with the Mappi Regency. It is the 4th wave after one batch was held in 2017 and two more in 2018. Besides Mappi, the Papua Task Force sent GPDT to Puncak Regency in 2013 and 2015 and Intan Jaya Regency in 2015.
As also reported by VOA Indonesia, Ngaliman of the UGM’s Papua Task Force explained that the pre-placement program was filled with various programs to ensure that the teachers are to make their best contribution to the area where and the kids who they teach. He said that the preplacement includes debriefing by psychologists, dialogues with local education officials, and sharing sessions with participants in the previous year’s program.
This preplacement process is quite important to debunk their perceptions about the region. It is also imperative to help them to have stronger knowledge about the cultural diversity context they will face while living and teaching in West Papua. The goal is nothing but to gain a firm understanding that regardless of the different ethnicity, all Indonesians are one family, that as a family, building trust, and helping with each is not only a must but also a noble act.
In the end, no one can deny that West Papua has had some gloomy news that needs to be addressed. Some activities are already in their trajectory to provide adequate advocacy for that. However, there are valuable, inspiring experiences and stories about some organizations and people, mainly youngsters, that believe in themselves to bring betterment for West Papua especially in the field of education. These people are very determined that even their parents’ prohibition cannot hold them back from arriving in Indonesia’s easternmost region and bring hope to the children there through better education. They carry weapons, very effective ones, for armoring their education services, namely: knowledge, pens and books. (*)